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The Arab Spring Ten Years Later

Summary:
From the return of Russia to the normalization of relations between Israel and a growing number of Arab states, the decade since the Arab Spring continues to redraw the Middle East's geopolitical map. The outcome will depend on a several factors, not least whether – or when – the goal of democracy mobilizes Arab populations again. TEL AVIV – When the struggling street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, on December 17, 2010, he could not possibly have imagined how consequential his desperate protest would be. By sparking a wave of civil unrest across the Arab world, he touched off the region’s most profound transformation since decolonization. My Man of the Year

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From the return of Russia to the normalization of relations between Israel and a growing number of Arab states, the decade since the Arab Spring continues to redraw the Middle East's geopolitical map. The outcome will depend on a several factors, not least whether – or when – the goal of democracy mobilizes Arab populations again.

TEL AVIV – When the struggling street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, on December 17, 2010, he could not possibly have imagined how consequential his desperate protest would be. By sparking a wave of civil unrest across the Arab world, he touched off the region’s most profound transformation since decolonization.

First, Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution erupted, leading to the ouster of the country’s longtime president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Protests quickly engulfed other Arab countries, and more autocrats – namely, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi, and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh – were toppled.

In Syria, President Bashar al-Assad managed to hold onto power – at the cost of plunging his country into a brutal civil war that has killed more than a half-million people, forced millions to flee the country, and left millions more internally displaced. The conflict returned Syria to the Russian fold, and turned its territory into an Iranian-Israeli battlefield.

Most of those who managed to overthrow their autocrats in the so-called Arab Spring didn’t see their democratic hopes blossom. Yemen’s “Coffee Revolution” quickly evolved into a civil war between the central government and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Though Saleh eventually resigned, the Yemeni people got no relief. On the contrary, Saudi Arabia led a brutal intervention against the Houthis, turning Yemen into the site of a savage proxy war with Iran. The result has been the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe.

As for Libya – already an artificial colonial creation – its regime change,...

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